Riley Feng, Distinguished Young Woman WI 2020

“More than anything, it was just an honor and I was really excited about it” -Feng (’20)


Rose Milacca

The 2019 Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin, BCHS alumn Amy Keane (‘19), presents Riley Feng (‘20) with the title of 2020 Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin. Feng will be competiting again in June. “I loved state week so getting to go to nationals will be super fun,” said Feng.

Stephanie Chen, Head Editor-in-Chief

Distinguished. “Marked by eminence, distinction, or excellence,” according to Merriam-Webster. Or, in the words of Riley Feng (‘20), this year’s Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin, “Representing yourself in the best light possible in your daily life by embodying each aspect of DYW. Or more simply put, striving each day to ‘Be Your Best Self’: healthy, ambitious, involved, responsible, and studious.”

Feng received the title Friday, August 16, 2019. Just five months prior, she was named the 2020 Distinguished Young Woman (DYW) of Brookfield. The layout of the two competitions are essentially the same, with the addition of a Be Your Best Self essay at state. The two programs still have their differences though. “On the state level there is a lot more dedication,” Feng described. “They always describe state as a transformative experience, and honestly, I think that’s what it was.”

The state program took place the week leading up to the competition. Both Feng and McKenna Popek (‘20), the 2020 DYW of Pewaukee, participated. During the week, the eight participants stayed with host families, usually those with members who had been heavily involved with the DYW program. The week involved service work, such as volunteering at the local food shelter, rehearsals to prepare for the competition, and lots of team bonding activities. “Getting to know the other girls was super fun,” Feng remarked, naming her favorite part of the program. “We were just able to bond over something that we were really passionate about. Not a lot of people are involved in [DYW] around the state, so it was nice to get to know people who are just like me.”

One of Feng’s most memorable moments was meeting the 2018 DYW of America. “We all thought she would be super intimidating and scary because she was the DYW of America, but she was just the funniest person ever and super sweet, and we just loved getting to know her and seeing how she has been involved with DYW on the national level. She was really everything that you could want from a national representative.”

At the program’s conclusion, both of BC’s Distinguished Young Women received individual awards. Popek received a preliminary talent award for her jazz dance performance; Feng received preliminaries in fitness and interview and was the winner in overall scholastics and the ‘Be Your Best Self’ essay.

Feng was “totally shocked” when her name was called a fifth time for the title of the 2020 DYW of WI. She had gone into state week with a mindset of befriending the other participants over outcompeting them. “I tried to go in with a pretty open mind,” she explained, “My biggest fear was that the other girls would be really competitive about the competition because state week really isn’t fun if you’re focused on the competition the whole time.”

The next step for Feng is nationals, though she tries not to stress about the competition nine months away. Amy Keane (‘19), the 2019 DYW of Wisconsin, gave Feng plenty to look forward too after returning from nationals this past June. “[Amy] said that it opened up doors for her around the country, and she has a ton of connections from it. More than anything, she’s made a lot of lifetime friends. I’m just really excited to meet other girls who are just like me in that they are state representatives and all super invested in DYW.”

Feng encourages other girls to join the program, emphasizing that the competition is not a pageant. Above all, she stresses the importance of embracing the experience. “Just have fun throughout the process because it’s more about growing and transforming as a person. Distinguished Young Woman provides you with so many life skills, so focus on having fun in the moment and growing rather than how you perform at the end of the day.”